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Almost all companies want a culture of continuous improvement (CI) – yet so few have it. Why is that then?

Here are our top 5 reasons that prevent you from creating a culture of CI:

1.You don’t invest in training people

Improvement is a skill like any other. Some people have a bit of a natural gift for it – most of us need to be trained. It doesn’t have to be expensive in this day and age and the return on investment you’ll get will far exceed the training cost. It’s also far cheaper to have a Lean Six Sigma training provider deliver the training at your workplace.

There’s a lot of good Lean Six Sigma training out there – we offer a whole suite of courses (check them out here).

There are a lot of bad Lean Six Sigma training providers out there too. Look out for companies that only offer Lean Six Sigma training and don’t advertise anything about their employees either.

Look for companies that do more than just train – look for companies that actually deliver Improvements for organisations. They have more experience in delivery and the courses are more practical and relatable.

2.You don’t give people the time to work on improvements

If you’re an organisation that has invested in some Lean Six Sigma training (that’s great!) but where it often falls apart is after the training – your staff aren’t given any time to do the work. And it will take them longer than an experienced professional, because they’ve only just been trained.

Too often, Managers or Support Staff are trained in improvements, but then they return to their full time job. They’re expected to somehow create enough time to work on a project out of thin air – whilst managing all their ‘business as usual’ work.

Lean Six Sigma training doesn’t make you magic. You still need time to do the work.

3. You don’t give them opportunity to do the work

So you’ve given them the Lean Training and made the time available for them to work on some improvement projects – but have you given them the opportunity to make changes?

I’m talking about the autonomy to make decisions. Or if you can’t give them that – a rapid approval/decision making process so they can move their improvements forward at pace.

Too many organisations require far too much effort to navigate your way through the various governance and approvals boards.

“I’m sorry, that will need to go to the Risk Steering board – they only meet once and month and they just met yesterday. Then it will need to go through the Change & Transformation forum, the IT board, the People Board, the Cost Board, the ExCo, the CapEx review board, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and 3 dancing Leprechauns before you can continue.”

I’ve watched so many good projects die a death through a war of attrition getting through internal approvals.

4. You don’t give them a budget for improvements

It costs money to make money – isn’t that what they say? If you want improvement work to happen, it will usually cost something. Employee resources, maybe some Lean Consultants, perhaps some IT spend, other 3rd party suppliers etc. And 99% of the time, it will cost money up front – before you get your return on investment from the improvement.

Many organisations want people to prove the benefits before the work has even started.

That’s kind of like asking for proof a share price is going to rise, before investing your money.

A good Lean Six Sigma project will set out what their expectations are for the improvement, but usually, there is no real way of proving this will occur as it’s only a well-formed hypothesis until you actually start operating a process differently.

5. You don’t make it safe for people to fail

This is perhaps the most important on the list. So much decision making in business now is done by committee – so if it goes wrong we can all share in the blame. Perhaps that’s why Steering Groups and Boards are so attractive.

When it comes to blame, we could all take the tremendous advice of Lego CEO Jorgen Vig Knudstor:

“Blame is not for failure, it is for failing to help or ask for help.”

Growth requires risk – look at any investment portfolio. The same goes with people – growth requires risk. The same goes for business.

The Leaders of an organisation need to work hard to instill an attitude where failure is accepted. We need to create an environment where people are not afraid to take measured risks.

Would you add any other reasons to this list?

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